Tuesday, 31 May 2022
Department of Rural and Community Development
846. To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development further to Parliamentary Question No. 271 of 3 March 2022, the status of the national oversight and advisory group for town centre first; the membership of the group; the terms of reference of the group; the number of times the group has met to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27808/22]
The Town Centre First (TCF) Policy is a major cross-government policy that aims to tackle vacancy, combat dereliction and breathe new life into our town centres.
Key to this is the establishment of the National Implementation Office to assist in the delivery and implementation of the policy, and to co-ordinate stakeholder engagement at a national level.
This office will be responsible for supporting Town Regeneration Officers (TRO) in driving implementation of the policy and will also produce an Annual Implementation Plan.
My Department has agreed the structure and funding for the National Office and the TROs with local authorities. The first step is the appointment of the head of the National Implementation Office. The recruitment process for this key post is currently ongoing.
Similarly, local authorities have now also been authorised to commence the recruitment of TROs who will drive the development of TCF Plans at local level across the country.
Action 27 of the TCF policy is to establish a National Oversight and Advisory Group (NOAG) to monitor and guide the delivery of the policy, together with Annual Implementation Plans produced by the National Implementation Office. It will provide cross-government focus and alignment on policies. It will also consider adaptations and additions to the actions outlined in this Policy during its implementation and have responsibility for the review of the Town Centre First policy at three year intervals.
The Group may include Government Departments; the Local Government sector; agencies central to supporting towns; other experts; and sectoral, business and community representatives as appropriate. The immediate priority for my Department is the establishment of the National Implementation Office. Once the Office is operational the next steps include the establishment of the NOAG.
I am committed to ensuring that the continued roll out of the Town Centre First policy will work to deliver on the goal of revitalising rural towns and villages as set out in Our Rural Future.
847. To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development when successful projects in County Clare will be announced under the 2022 outdoor recreation infrastructure scheme to support the development of walkways and greenways in rural areas; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27844/22]
The Outdoor Recreation and Infrastructure Scheme (ORIS) provides funding for the development and enhancement of outdoor recreational infrastructure such as trails, walkways, cycleways, blueways and bridleways in rural areas. Earlier this year, I launched the 2022 Scheme with a budget of €15 million to support outdoor recreation projects nationwide.
The Measures to be funded under this year’s Scheme are:
Measure 1: for small scale projects requiring funding of up to €30,000,
Measure 2: for medium scale projects with funding of up to €200,000,
Measure 3: for large scale projects seeking funding of up to €500,000, and
Project Development Measure: funding of up to €50,000 for development costs for strategic large scale projects
The 2022 Scheme is now closed for all measures and the assessment process has commenced for all applications.
I hope to make an announcement on the successful applicants under Measure 1 and Project Development Measure in the coming weeks, with Measures 2 and 3 being announced later this year.
848. To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development when the town and village renewal scheme will open for applications in County Clare; the types of projects that will be eligible for funding in 2022; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27845/22]
The Town and Village Renewal Scheme (TVRS) is part of a range of measures to support the revitalisation of rural Ireland. The scheme is funded under Project Ireland 2040 as part of “Our Rural Future”.
Since the introduction of the Scheme in 2016, almost €113 million has been approved for more than 1,400 projects across the country. In February, I announced almost €18.5 million under the 2021 Scheme for projects which will benefit rural towns and villages the length and breadth of the country.
I launched the 2022 Town & Village Renewal Scheme on 27 May and a strong emphasis has been placed on projects which tackle vacancy and dereliction by bringing landmark town centre buildings back to life. The types of projects supported under the 2022 Scheme include:
Projects that bring vacant and derelict buildings and sites back into use as multi-purpose spaces;
the repurposing of existing community or publicly owned buildings in town or village centres to facilitate remote working;
the development of parks, green spaces, public outdoor dining spaces and recreational amenities in town centres to make them vibrant hubs; and
marketing campaigns targeted at attracting remote workers to their county/region.
This year I have also introduced a Building Acquisition Measure that will allow local authorities to purchase vacant or derelict buildings in 2022 for future development as community facilities.
849. To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development if she anticipates that there will be a further round of local improvement scheme funding for County Clare in 2022; if the Department of Transport will provide matched funding for the scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27846/22]
The Local Improvement Scheme (LIS) supports the improvement of rural roads and laneways that are not normally maintained by local authorities. As part of Our Rural Future, the Government is committed to ensuring that the Local Improvement Scheme (LIS) is funded into the future. The scheme makes an important contribution to connectivity in rural Ireland.
The Scheme was reintroduced in 2017 following a number of years with no dedicated funding. Between 2017-2021, my Department has allocated €80 million towards improvement works on over 3,000 non-public roads and lanes benefiting over 13,300 landowners and residents in these rural areas.
I was pleased, as part of Budget 2022, to announce an increase in the base funding for LIS from €10.5 million to €11 million this year. I announced details of the 2022 Local Improvement Scheme in early April and approvals have now issued for works to commence in all but one Local Authority.
Last year, I was in a position to double the initial LIS allocation to €21 million following the identification of savings in other capital areas. This year, I am continuing to closely monitor expenditure patterns. Should savings emerge, I will give consideration to again allocating additional funding to the scheme.
Since 2017 Clare County Council has received €4.3 million under the Scheme to support improvement works on non-public roads and lanes in the county.
Finally, my colleague, Eamon Ryan, T.D., Minister for Transport has confirmed that his Department is not in a position to allocate funding to upgrade LIS roads at this time. The Minister has indicated his priority remains on the maintenance and renewal of the public regional and local road network and that funding allocations have been made for this year. I will, however, continue to explore the potential for further financial support for LIS from his Department.